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Ira Pettibone. 







I'riday, June 14, 1889. 

" He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit clown with me in my 
throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne." 
— Rev. J, 21. 

He in honor of whom we meet to-day was a 
worker, and a fighter ; a faithful servant of God, 
willing to toil, to bear the burden and heat of the 
day ; a soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ, ready 
to do battle for righteousness and endure hard- 
ness unto the end. The war between good and 
evil is not ended, the Lord's work in this world 
is not done, but our brother's campaign is over, 
and he has been called home to the honor and 
reward of victory. 

The note which sounds through this memorial 
ser\-ice must be given us from above and not 
from below. It is a note of joy and triumph for 
one who has overcome, not of regret and unavail- 

mor sorrow. 

Rev. Ira Pettibone was bom in OrweU, Vt., 
September 7, 1801, of Connecticut parentage. 
His father and mother vsere residents of Norfolk 
until after their marriage. A few months after 
his birth the family went as pioneer settlers to 
Stockholm, St. Lawrence Co., X. Y. He united 
with the Congregational Church in that place at 
the age of seventeen years. During several 
years given to farm work and such study as was 
possible to him, the purpose to become a minister 
of the gospel was formed and grew to ripeness. 
He first studied at Bangor Theological Seminary^ 
and afterward in Middlebur}* College in Ver- 
mont, where he was graduated in 1828. Ha\-ing 
been informed by his physicians that his lungs 
were in such condition that it would be impossi- 
ble for him ever to become a public speaker, he 
spent the next live years in teaching, but con- 
tinuing theological study as he found time and 
opportunit)' for it. 

October 4, 1830, he was married to Miss 
Louisa P. Welch of Norfolk, who belonged to a 
Connecticut family known far and near in the 
annals of the medical profession. She was 
spared to be his efficient helper for nearly thirty- 
five years, going on before, April 8, 1865. 

He was ordained pastor of the Presbyterian 
Church in Whitesboro, N. Y. A revival at- 
tended his labors there, and many were added to 
the Church ; but discords arising in consequence 
of the anti-slavery excitement of the times, he 
resigned his pastorate to accept the call of the 
Presbyterian Church at New York Mills, only a 
mile and a half from Whitesboro. This Church 
was in pronounced sympathy with his anti-slavery 
views, and was greatly prospered during his min- 
istry of a little more than nine years. In that 
period he received 259 persons to membership. 
He was dismissed June 23, 1845, on account of 
failing health, especially a chronic disease of the 
throat, which, for several months, rendered him 
entirely unable to preach. After rest and re- 
covery he took up his work again in Winsted, 
Conn., where he was installed June 3, 1846, and 
remained until 1853. He next spent four years 


as a teacher in Cornwall, also supplying the pul- 
pit in that place for a considerable part of the 
time. He was installed as pastor of the Church 
in Winchester, October 21, 1857, and was form- 
ally dismissed in December, 1867, but by permis- 
sion of the Church he had already been working 
for about two years at Savannah, Ga., organiz- 
ing missionary and educational work among the 
Freedmen, under the auspices of the American 
Missionary Association. After his return from 
the South, he was pastor at West Stafford in this 
state until 1873. After that time he held no 
pastorate, but for several years did much effective 
ministerial work. It is a source of great gratifi- 
cation to the Church in this place, and especially 
to its pastor, that the home of his declining 
years was chosen among us. Having been 
ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he continued 
during his varied pastorate to act on the theory 
of the Presbyterian Church, that an ordained 
minister is a member of the Church at large, and 
does not need to unite with the local Churches 
to which he ministers. After his retirement from 
the active work of the ministry, he obtained a 
letter of recommendation from the Church with 

which he united seventy years ago, and became 
a member with us,— an act which we were glad 
to consider as an indication of his special regard 
for the interests of this community. 

As a church member and parishioner, he 
heartily and faithfully fulfilled his duties, and was 
another standing refutation of the slander that 
retired ministers make unpleasant parishioners, 
— a statement continually refuted by the facts in 
the case, and as continually re-stated as if there 
were some foundation for it. Mr. Pettibone was 
the third retired minister to whom I have had 
the privilege of preaching, and I wish I could 
have a few more of the same kind to sit under 
my ministry. I have made but slight reference 
to one very important part of his work. He 
was eminently successful as a teacher, for several 
years devoting himself mainly to this work, and 
at other times carrying on a large school side by 
side with his services as preacher or pastor. 
Speaking in round numbers, about twenty years 
were given to the management of schools, and 
about forty to preaching. 

In undertaking to speak to you briefly of his 
chief characteristics as preacher, teacher, and 


man, I am fortunate in bein^ able to refer to 
a historical sermon, preached at New York 
Mills, which speaks of his early ministry. The 
testimony given by one of his successors in 
that pastorate is as follows : '' He preached 
faithfully upon the three subjects of anti- 
slavery, temperance, and the observance of 
the Sabbath. He both wrote and extempor- 
ized his sermons. His custom was to preach 
three times on the Sabbath, and deliver three 
lectures during the week." '' He is remembered 
as a very earnest, careful and conscientious 
preacher and revivalist, but not specially given 
to doctrine. He was a man of fine sympathetic 
feeling, sincere, practical, popular, and much be- 
loved by the people. He was always punctual 
to the minute." Those of us who knew him in 
later years will not doubt the truthfulness of any 
of these statements. He was as positive in his 
convictions, and as outspoken in his statements 
in regard to other moral and social questions as 
in respect to temperance, the abolition of slavery, 
and Sabbath observance. He took strong ground 
against dancing and card-playing. He was a 
strong, vigorous man, whose qualities were essen- 


tially executive. His special characteristic was 
a strong will, which was inflexible, and commit- 
ted with unwavering purpose to the side of con- 
science and righteousness. With singleness of 
aim, his whole force was directed to the accom- 
plishment of a definite purpose, and his teaching 
or preaching could not fail to be effective. Some 
may doubt the statement that he was '* not spe- 
cially given to doctrine." For the most part, he 
accepted the Westminster Catechism, in which 
he was brought up ; but, if I rightly understand 
him, doctrine was simply an instrument to be 
used for the accomplishment of desired results 
in character. He looked upon the gospel as in- 
tended to produce certain results in the individual 
life or upon organized society ; and in his preach- 
ing he aimed at these results. If the preaching 
of any doctrine seemed to him effective for his 
purpose, he preached the doctrine. If scripture 
could be used with effect, he used it. If doctrines 
generally believed were of no present use for his 
purpose, he accepted them reverently, but left 
them for the most part unnoticed. If any doc- 
trines really seemed to stand in the way of the 
effectiveness of his ministry, he had no hesita- 


tion In modifying- or discarding them ; but merely 
speculative improvements in theology were his 
abhorrence. Doctrines were tools to work with, 
not something to occupy the mind in leisure 

He was an earnest worker in behalf of right- 
eousness, and a fighter against every form of 
iniquity. In his thinking and his acting he 
was positive, undoubting and uncompromising, 
not given to hair-splitting or philosophizing. He 
did not, like so many in our times, weaken the 
effectiveness of his blows by minute investigation 
and discrimination. In fighting the devil he did 
not think it necessary to inquire if some things 
might not be said in his favor. His convictions 
were clear and positive, his aims perfectly defi- 
nite. In matters of personal duty or social 
reform there was to him a perfectly definite dis- 
crimination between the right and the wrong. 
He was not a man to think or say to his oppo- 
nent, '' There is probably some right on your 
side, but mine is on the whole best. Let us look 
the matter over carefully, and see if we can con- 
serve the one-tenth of right that may be with you, 
and the nine-tenths that are on my side, while 

we get rid of all the wrong that is left on both 
sides." That was not his way, — in substance he 
would think and say, '' You are wrong in this 
matter. I know you are wrong, you know you 
are wrong, and you have no excuse. You must 
come over to the right side or I shall be com- 
pelled to oppose you to the end. There is no 
place for compromise." As a revivalist all un- 
converted persons were to him in one class, and 
their position and duty were alike clearly defined. 
They were in rebellion against God, and the one 
thing for them to do was to give up their oppos- 
ition and submit to the divine will. His own 
strong will, wholly committed to the side of God, 
was a powerful agent in breaking down the will 
of others, that they might yield to the will of 
God. His ministry was very effective in conver- 
sions. In four of his pastorates, comprising about 
thirty years of his ministry, he received 488 into 
Church membership. In other places we know 
that there were revivals and large accessions to 
the Church, but have no record of numbers. 
There were usually many conversions in the 
schools of which he had charge. Probably it 
would be an estimate considerably within bounds 


to say that under his ministry six hundred per- 
sons had been led into the Christian Hfe. A 
strong will, dominating other wills that are weaker, 
may some times bring to pass apparent results that 
are not permanent, reaction taking place when 
the dominant pressure is removed, — so that sta- 
tistics are no complete measure of spiritual facts, 
but, on the other hand, really to lead one young 
man or woman to the choice and acceptance of 
God's will as a plan of life has results which lay 
hold on eternity. The results of such work are 
not like what we see when a stone is thrown into 
the water, and waves of influence go out contin- 
ually expanding but at the same time diminishing 
in force. Rather the seeds of new Hfe and pur- 
pose implanted in the human heart increase like 
a choice seed of wheat, which sown once may 
multiply into a hundred grains, each with the 
same vital force in itself, and then planted again, 
may soon be sufficient to supply the world with 
food. Our brother worked with God, and his 
influence, taken into God's great plan, must 
move on through the endless ages. 

As submission to God was the one thing for 
an unconverted man, the one thing for the con- 


verted was to take the side of God against the 
world, and work righteousness. To the mind of 
Bro. Pettibone there is a war going on between 
good and evil, in which there is no place for neu- 
trality. He had no sympathy with the man who 
is on the fence, and don't know on which side to 
get down. He had no sympathy with laziness or 
procrastination, any more than with wickedness. 
An earnest worker himself, work was to him an 
essential part of religion. Yet he was not the 
stern, unfeeling man whom a stranger might pic- 
ture to himself from this description. He was 
genial and kindly in his home — a lover of chil- 
dren — one who loved to see real enjoyment in 
those about him. His work among the Freed- 
men showed that, in his anti-slavery principles, 
he was not simply a hater of wrong and op- 
pression, but that he loved the oppressed, 
and desired to help them and lift them up 
to the true standard. So in his zeal for the 
temperance cause, he was not simply a fighter 
against the saloons and the saloon-keepers, 
but he pitied the victims of intemperance, and 
wished to save them. His last days were 
peaceful days, embittered by no hatred such as 


a life of earnest conflict mic^^ht be supposed to 

In the few weeks of illness that preceded his 
death, he showed a cheerful readiness for the 
coming change. Death and judgment could 
never seem to him anvthinor less than of solemn 
importance. In his mind they were neither to 
be iornored nor lio-htlv thouq-ht of; but he knew 
whom he had believed, and had no doubt of the 
better realities beyond. It was not easy for so 
active and earnest a worker to cease from his 
labors, but he believed that his Master's will was 
right, and he acquiesced with unhesitating faith. 
He was not a man of creative imacfination to 
picture to himself the coming glory, or in mys- 
tic vision to dwell with rapture amnd the unseen 
things. He only accepted the word as true — 
did his work faithfully, while there was anything 
to do, — waited patiently when his strength for 
v\-ork failed, and went cheerfully home when the 
Master called. Mav it be as well with us. 



We are told that a frost flower grows in the 
Arctic region, discovered by the eminent Russian 
botanist, Count Swinoskoff, in the year 1853. It 
is very wonderful. Bursting from the eternal 
snows, it grows to the height of three feet, and 
flowers on the third day. Its stalk is one inch in 
diameter ; its leaves are an inch and a half in 
width, and are covered with infinitesimal cones 
of snow — the whole plant composed of snow. 
The flower, when fully expanded, is in shape like 
a perfect star. Its anthers are five in number, 
and on their extreme points, when mature, are 
to be seen trembling, and glittering like dia- 
monds, the seeds of this marvelous flower. 

Thus we find nature in all her conditions of 
air and earth, of water and rock, of heat and 
frost, propagating and rejoicing in life. Bloom, 
beauty, and fruitfulness arc found where barren- 
ness seems to reign. 

This is true in both extremes of human life. 
There is a bloom and transcendent fruitage in 


the smile and wonder-look of infancy ; and there 
is. also, in a Christian old age a bloom and fruit- 
age even more transcendent, because a more in- 
telligent love warms in the bloom and fruit. The 
frost-flower of a truly loving old age is one of 
the sweetest beauties of human society. It is 
the intense orlow of the evening; sun throucrh the 
rifts and in the bosoms of the clouds, as he 
throws back his expiring glor}-. 

But the ilower of old age is unlike the frost- 
flower in the regdon of eternal snow, in that while 
the latter is cold to the touch, blooming, as it 
does, at fortv degrees below zero, the former 
elows with a heavenlv warmth "midst the frosts of 
old age. And while the trost-flower is odorless 
as the snow-flake, the flower of old aee has the 
fraorance of a rose crarden. through which are 
breathing the perfumes of Paradise. And while 
the fruit of the snow-flower is a spicula of ice — 
a dead radiance — that of old age yields a fruit of 
sustaining power to old and young : the fruit of 
precious experiences of battles and victories, of 
communions and near approaches to God : fruit 
gathered from the tree of life : grapes of the 
heavenly Eshcol, all the more delicious because 
gathered in old age. 


When all these excellences appear and glow 
in the smiles, and gleam among the wrinkles of 
old age, it is then our faith is confirmed, and 
our hopes assured, for there is living and grow- 
ing before us a beautiful embodiment of gospel 
truth. When the old pilgrim is thus made mel- 
low and gentle, radiant and warm, ever standing 
still and quiet, it is then that the Christian is 
''bringing forth fruit in old age." It is some- 
thing like the most barren of these hills bursting 
out, as they now do, with this wondrous laurel 

So our dear departed father and brother 
lived and bloomed in the midst of, and way be- 
yond the allotted period of human life, realizing, 
to some extent, the words of Zophar to Job : 
''Thine age shall rise above the noonday ; thou 
shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning." 
His presence was a benediction down to the day 
of his death ; not a frost- flower, but a warm 
smile of God in our midst, whether men saw it 
or not. 

And this is what we might naturally have ex- 
pected from such a life as he lived. He was 
always in the midst of joyful work. He was 


eminently a man of one idea ; and that idea was 
God and humanity. For this idea he fought his 
many battles, and fouo^ht them well. His love 
of the right and truth, brought him at an early 
period of his long life into the company and 
work of the great anti-slaverv agitators and 
leaders. His early ministry was passed in 
the immediate neighborhood of some of these 
men, whose names will live in the histon' of the 
great struggle ; — such men as Gerrit Smith, 
Beriah Green, Alvin Stewart. Theodore Weld. 
These men were leaders in the great abolition 
movement in the State of New York, Our de- 
parted friend was present at that great anti- 
slaver}- convention at Utica. in 1S35, when the 
anti-slaver}' society of New York was formed, 
in the midst of one of the greatest mobs of those 
stormy days — a mob led by the mayor of the 
cit}-. It was a fearful time. Men's lives were in 
danger. It required men of pluck to stand up 
for the right. And thank God, there were men, 
aye, giants in those days. As a student in Ham- 
ilton College, nine miles away. I had gone down 
to attend the convention. The whole scene is 
stamped indelibly upon my mind. I still hear 


the thunder of the mob as it approached the 
church where the convention was held. The 
doors are bolted. The excitement within is tre- 
mendous. But still the work of organization 
goes on. I feel the panic of the great audience. 
The roar of the mob comes nearer. It is now 
at the door. The assault is made. I hear the 
crash as the door gives way. At that instant the 
final vote had been taken, and I see Alvin Stew- 
art's great strong hand rise above the excited 
throng, and hear him shout with stentorian voice : 
''Thank God, there is a New York Anti-Slavery 
Society ! " Then a motion to adjourn was put, 
and the audience melted away, leaving the church 
in the possession of the mob. Our departed 
friend was then receiving his baptism of mud, 
rotten eggs, and fire. The baptism lasted until 
the great battle was ended. He never turned 
or swerved until the final victory was achieved, 
when the fetters fell from millions of slaves, and 
humanity made one more immense stride forward. 
Thus our dear friend saw the end of the war of 
words, of brick-bats and fouler missiles, — of bay- 
onets and cannon, of imprisonments, conflagra- 
tions and assassinations. He saw the beg-in- 


ning, he saw the end. He saw victory and honor 
forever emblazon truth and right. 

But he did not now fold his arms in a state 
of rest. He was one of the first to appear 
among the emancipated slaves. He organized 
the first school for Freedmen in the Cit}^ of Sa- 
vannah, Georgia. He erected a school-building, 
and summoned me, then working in Macon, 
Georgia, to go down and help him dedicate the 
building. I found him at work with all the en- 
ergy and enthusiasm of a young man. 

Being thus heartily and from principle en- 
gaged during his whole life-time, in such a 
tremendous contest, we naturally expect the 
creation and Q^rowth of a sterlinof character, a 
character rounded out into a rugged and living 
fullness ; a character abloom with truth and 
love. He was never idle. He had no patience 
with elegant idleness. He will not accept of 
Heaven as a place of folded arms. When the 
light of paradise falls upon him, as I doubt not 
it has already fallen, he will cry out like Paul 
when smitten at the gates of Damascus : ''Lord 
what will thou have me to do ?" 

This is altogether the right kind of a man 


to have in this world of conflicts, a man who 
dares to do right, and bear truth to a loftier seat ; 
yes, — altogether the right kind of a man to have 
in society. And he alone is a success, whether 
he dies worth his millions or not. Millionaires 
have died proclaiming their lives to have been 
failures, while the verdict of all is that this hum- 
ble octogenarian has earned the reward of true 

For more than half a century he has been a 
soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has stood 
by his colors. But I need not enlarge here. 
The clear cut portraiture has already been given 
and nothing remains to be added. 

He lives in two senses. The influence of his 
life will remain forever. We shall not be able 
to trace its silent and resistless working. But 
it has already molded many characters, and it 
will mold many more. Souls redeemed by the 
blood of Christ through his instrumentality will 
be ascending to heaven to greet him through 
coming ages. We cannot limit the influence of 
even a drop of water ; then how shall we limit the 
influence of a soul filled with divine impulses, in 
which the truth of Jesus has had a living home 


and habitation ? Then he Hves in his own 
proper personaHty, and in such a sense that we 
shall know him whenever we shall meet him in 
the realms of infinite love. Ira Pettibone is 
somewhere to-day. He lives more completely 
now than ever. 

Shall we know our companion In work, in the 
association, in the common walk of life ? Yes. 
Oh the thrilling power of the thought that we 
are to recover the friends who have gone before 
us ! Yes, — our own fathers, our mothers, our 
dearest ones, will wait for us in the home of the 
good and Christly. Let us not weep as those 
who have no such glorious hope. The time is 
near when familiar faces, familiar hands, all trans- 
figured, will welcome us into the many mansions. 

I think our departed father and brother 
would adopt the last stanza of Mrs. Browning's 
'* He giveth his beloved sleep." 

'*Ah friends, dear friends, when it shall be 
That this low breath has gone from me, 
And around my bier ye come to weep. 
Let one most loving of you all, 
Say : ^ Not a tear must o'er him fall. 
He giveth his beloved sleep.' " 



While the sterHng qualities of our father s 
character — his conscientiousness and uncompro- 
mising adherence to principle, in small matters 
as well as great, — were no less manifest in his 
home life than in his intercourse with the outside 
world, there were other characteristics best 
known to those who were nearest him. He loved 
wife and children with all the force of his strong 
nature, and considered no effort too great to pro- 
mote their welfare and happiness. He was a very 
tender father, and toward his wife ever mani- 
fested a chivalrous courtesy and devoted affec- 
tion. When the beloved wife, who had been his 
most trusted friend and counsellor for thirty 
years, was taken from him, the very foundations 
of his life seemed broken up. Although he met 
this bereavement with submission to the will of 
God, and with a calm cheerfulness which was a 
constant marvel to us who knew how closely the 
two lives had been knit together, his strength 
visibly failed, and he made few plans for the 


future. At this time, when his hold upon earth 
seemed thus loosening, the call to aid in organ- 
izing educational work amone the Freedmen, 
roused him to a fresh interest in life and a new 
activity ; but more than ever it was God's work, 
not his own, he wanted to do. 

In his later years he grew more and more to 
a larger charity toward all men. Himself relax- 
ing nothing of his strict conscientiousness, he 
became more tolerant of differing opinions, and 
more lenient in his judgment of offenders. There 
was a gradual softening and sweetening of his 
whole nature, until his very presence in the home 
seemed a benediction. 

During the active portion of his life, he often 
expressed the wish that he might "die in the har- 
ness," saying, that he would much rather ''wear 
out than rust out." The realization of this wish 
was denied him, but no murmur or word of com- 
plaint did he utter, and it was delightful to see 
how beautifully and gracefully he grew old, until 
at last, 'Mike a shock of corn fully ripe," he was 
safely garnered. His body, borne tenderly by 
his children and grandchildren, was laid by the 
side of his wife in the beautiful cemetery at Nor- 


folk, in a place they had together selected for 
their burial, and which, ever since her death, he 
has lovingly cared for. 

The following extracts from a few of the letters received by his 
family since his death, indicate some of his characteristics, as they pre- 
sented themselves to friends who, at different periods of his life, had 
known him intimately : 

From Rev. John De Pen, of Norfolk. 
Your note, with its tidings of joy to your father and of 
sorrow to us, came this evening. All of us who were associ- 
ated with your father in the Christian ministry, reverenced 
him, and will greatly miss his wise and kindly counsels. 

Rev. W, H. Moore, of Hartford, writes : 
* * * For more than forty years he has commanded 
my respect and affection as a devoted minister of our Lord 
Jesus Christ \ and now is fulfilled to him the promise : 
" With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salva- 
tion." My father died at 41 ; be thankful that your father 
was spared so long. 

Rev. J. G. W. Cotoles, of Cleveland, Ohio, writes : 
It is Edward Rowland Hill, who calls Death " God's 
gentlest angel," and I think he is never more so than when 
he takes an aged saint like your father by the hand, and 
conducts him to immortality and eternal youth. The gen- 
eration of our fathers is departed, and we hasten to follow 
them. And so it is that God holds our treasures in Heaven, 
that our hearts may be there also. 


Mr. W. D. Walcott, of New York Mills (where Mr. Pettibone had 
formerly been a pastor), and who had known him intimately for more 
than fifty years, writes : 

The afflictive dispensation, in the decease of one of the 
Saints (your revered father), has come. There are many 
interested in the good man, and not a few hereabouts, and 
none more than my own family. The writer always re- 
members him with love and gratitude. He was to me like 
a father, especially in the line of spiritual things. He was 
a blessing to his kind. 

From Prof. Wni. H. Welch, of Johns Hopkins University. 

What a pleasant memory it will be to know that your 
father has passed thus quietly to rest, rich in years and in 
good works ! His was a character of unusual nobility and 
well directed energy — a life beneficent to his fellow-men, 
many of whom will cherish his memory and recall his exem- 
plary walk and hi^ good deeds. 

From Rev. Samuel B. Forbes, Hartford, Conn. 

I greatly desire to attend the funeral of your father — 
dear man ! I knew he was running down, but his death 
brings a shock to me. Much I loved him. Most fatherly 
and kind was he to me. Many an encouraging word has 
he spoken to me when I was in sorrow and darkness. 

But he has gone home. His spirit was of the heavenly 
sort, and he will move right on without any of the hamper- 
ings of earth. He will do Heaven good when he becomes 


known to the throng around the throne. Blessed be God 
for giving to earth a few such witnesses for Christ. I will 
mourn with you on the human side, but my rejoicing is 
full when I think of his exaltation. The Lord give you all 
much comfort in his memory and in his future. Let us 
follow on in the same way till we come to those joys which 
are prepared for the saints. 


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